“Photography is usually a means to an end, but film photography can be an end in and of itself,” said Christian Maurer, who recently opened a venue in downtown Santa Barbara where folks can practice the “old-school” art of developing celluloid. Called the Santa Barbara Community Darkroom, the cozy space is full of glowing orange lights and spindly machines, and is awash with the smell of chemical solutions.
Maurer’s inspiration for the darkroom came from his desire to create a place in which to celebrate and reinvigorate the (nearly) lost art of photography. Although he’s taking a financial risk with the venture — he’s paying for all expenses from his own pocket — Maurer is passionate about it and doesn’t mind. “I’m going on the faith that this is something people will think is worthwhile,” he said.
The place has already gained a fair amount of public interest from young people who’ve found that the new in-vogue photos are shot on disposable or thrift-store cameras, and from professional photographers who long for the hands-on days of yore— i.e., the days before digital. Maurer, who daylights as a department director at Strategic Healthcare Programs, offers workshops to interested parties and has slated visits from school classes that want to see one of the only public darkrooms in Southern California.
Considering that we live in an era where social media — Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube — rules the roost, the question arises: Is there even a market for a place like the Community Darkroom? Well, as Maurer explained, the best photos on Instagram are a “two-second swipe away from being obsolete.” Yet Maurer is not anti-digital; he simply wants to share his passion for photography as a tangible art form that allows you to “turn off the lights, literally and figuratively.”
The S.B. Community Darkroom is located at 924 Chapala Street, Suite A. Call 222-6335 or visit sb-darkroom.com.